Parenting Tips: Understanding How Adult Attachment Style Affects Parenting
Understanding How Adult Attachment Style Affects Parenting
The attachment style of a human being is the cornerstone for all of his or her relationships. In adoption, we often talk about the child forming an attachment to the parent, but additionally, your personal attachment style as an adult impacts your relationship to the child, in addition to your marriage, work, friendships, and other relationships. Understanding your attachment style as an adult is important to helping your child by adoption attach to you, and eventually to his/her spouse, children, and others. This is a huge topic, but this blog post will hopefully briefly introduce you to the concept of attachment, what that looks like in adulthood, and how it affects parenting.
Attachment styles have traditionally been broken down into four categories. A secure attachment is characterized by emotional openness, lack of angst in relationships, and generally positive feelings toward self and others. A person with an anxious attachment style is likely to worry about relationships and often feel fear and insecurity. On the other hand, a person with a dismissive attachment style tends to avoid close relationships and intimacy. Lastly, the fearful attachment style often feels chaotic because of the fluctuation between wanting closeness and then avoiding it. Many children who have experienced trauma find themselves forming this fearful attachment style.
The good news is this: even though attachment style is formed in early relationships, it does not have to be permanent. With honest self-reflection and work, adults can move toward a secure attachment style and help children to do so as well. An excellent, albeit heavy, article by Jude Cassidy found HERE, delves into this topic in an enlightening way. The article, called “Truth, Lies, and Intimacy: An Attachment Perspective,” highlights four abilities required for true intimacy (attachment): the ability to SEEK care, the ability to GIVE care, the ability to feel comfortable with the autonomous self (to be alone), and the ability to negotiate. By examining yourself on these four scales and looking honestly at your history, often with the help of a professional, or specific tools, adults can begin to make sense of their past, and then make changes for positive impact in their current and most intimate relationships, namely with their children and spouse. One great tool for this is the book called “Parenting From the Inside Out” by Dan Seigel and Mary Hartzell; you can see a review and link to this book HERE.
Parents who have a secure attachment style (or “earned secure” style after personal work to heal from a less secure style) will find it easiest to understand and relate to children who come into their family with a history of trauma. These parents can be present with their children through their emotional dysregulation without getting excessively overwhelmed by it, but rather respond with strength, compassion, and consistency. These aren’t perfect parents but are more easily able to meet the needs of their child without becoming frustrated when the child does not meet the parent’s needs, or without wanting to just avoid the situation altogether. You can find more information about how attachment style affects parenting at this link HERE.
This is a lot of information packed into a little bit of space, and likely to introduce more questions than answers. We would be glad to talk with you more about this if you are interested. Feel free to reach out to us anytime about this or any other adoption-related topic.
ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. Explore ACT services on our website, and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.